Belfast Telegraph

Villiers urged to take a tough stance on Castlederg parade

By Adrian Rutherford

Theresa Villiers has been told not to repeat past mistakes and add her voice to calls for a controversial republican march in memory of two IRA bombers to be scrapped.

It comes after the Secretary of State expressed regret in a Belfast Telegraph interview for not taking a harder stance over the naming of a playground in Newry after an IRA hunger striker.

Hundreds of republicans are due to march in Castlederg this weekend to mark the 40th anniversary of the deaths of Seamus Harvey and Gerard McGlynn, who were killed when the bomb they were transporting to the Co Tyrone town exploded prematurely.

Ms Villiers told the Belfast Telegraph she does not have the legal power to ban Sunday's march, which has caused fury in the unionist community. But speaking ahead of a meeting with a senior PSNI officer, the DUP's Fermanagh/South Tyrone MLA Arlene Foster (right) called on Ms Villiers to think again.

"Having made the mistake in the past of not being robust enough she should be careful not to make the same mistake twice," she said. In an interview yesterday, Ms Villiers told this newspaper that her biggest regret from her first year in office was not speaking out strongly against the renaming of the park after IRA hunger striker Raymond McCreesh.

At the time Ms Villiers was asked about the issue in the House of Commons, and she replied that it would not be "sensible or wise" for her to interfere with decisions taken by local authorities.

However, speaking to the Belfast Telegraph at the weekend, she said: "Although my answer in the House of Commons was reasonable, with hindsight I think I should have been a bit tougher."

Ms Foster welcomed Ms Villiers' comments, but called for equally strong words about the Castlederg parade.

"Whilst the Secretary of State has acknowledged that the McCreesh Park decision was unhelpful for community relations, surely she should similarly acknowledge that this weekend's commemoration parade in Castlederg is equally unhelpful," Ms Foster added. "The Secretary of State holds a position of leadership and should exercise that role for the betterment of community relations in the province. I trust she will join with me in calling for the organisers of this parade to cancel the event and recognise it is grossly insensitive to victims."

A spokesman for the Parades Commission said it had no plans to review its ruling on the march.

"The Commission has received requests to review its decision by the parade organiser, the UUP and DUP. As standard practice the Commission may review any determination, but only if there is fresh information to consider.

"On this occasion the Commission has concluded that none of the requests contained sufficient new information to justify a review."

STORY SO FAR

IRA men Seamus Harvey and Gerard McGlynn, who were 23 and 20 respectively, died when the bomb they were transporting to Castlederg detonated prematurely on August 11, 1973. This weekend's march marks the 40th anniversary of their deaths. The Parades Commission gave it the go-ahead, but rerouted the parade to avoid a war memorial in the town's Diamond.

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